The Australian health system

Information about your healthcare rights in Australia.

Your rights in the health system

When you visit a doctor, counsellor or other health professional in Australia, you have certain rights by law. These include:

  • Advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner
  • Confidentiality
  • Respectful treatment without discrimination
  • The right to give consent about your own treatment
  • Free treatment in a public hospital, if you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. Fees may apply to overseas citizens.

For more information about your healthcare rights, see the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.

How to see a specialist

To see a medical specialist in Australia, you need a referral from a general practitioner (GP). The GP will assess your health issue and write a letter of referral to an appropriate specialist. You can then make an appointment with the specialist. You have the right to nominate the specialist you see.

Dentists and allied health professionals (e.g. psychotherapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, dieticians, chiropractors) do not require a referral. You can contact them directly.

About health insurance

If you are an overseas student, you must by law have an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance policy for the duration of your Australian visa.

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident, your medical bills may be paid partly by the public Medicare system and/or by private health insurance. Depending on the medical care you need, you may have to pay for some of it yourself.

All Australians are entitled to Medicare benefits but private insurance is optional. There are various companies and policy types to choose from, some more costly than others.

Privacy and confidentiality

RMIT Health Promotion collects personal information in accordance with the Health Records Act 2001 (Victoria) and The National Privacy Principles under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.

Health promotion officers are qualified health promotion practitioners bound by the constitution and bylaws of the Australian Health Promotion Association.

To request a copy of the Health Promotion Privacy Policy please email


Need health advice?

NURSE-ON-CALL puts you directly in touch with a registered nurse for caring, professional health advice around the clock.

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.